A man rows a boat in the heavily polluted waters of the Yamuna at Kalindi Kunj.
A man rows a boat in the heavily polluted waters of the Yamuna at Kalindi Kunj.

Only three effluent treatment plants along Yamuna meet standards: NGT-appointed panel

Expressing concern over the issue, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) panel has asked the Delhi government agencies to take short-term measures to improve the functioning of the plants. Also, it asked them to “explore strategies” to deal with effluents being discharged from non-conforming industrial areas.
By Vatsala Shrangi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 29, 2020 11:53 PM IST

Only three out of the 13 Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in Delhi, meant to treat industrial effluents before wastewater can be reused or discharged into the Yamuna, meet environmental standards, thus adding to the pollution load in the river, the NGT-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee has found.

Expressing concern over the issue, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) panel has asked the Delhi government agencies to take short-term measures to improve the functioning of the plants. Also, it asked them to “explore strategies” to deal with effluents being discharged from non-conforming industrial areas.

On November 19, after chairing a meeting of the Delhi Jal Board, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that his government was working on a concrete plan to reduce 90% pollution in the Yamuna river by 2023. The plan includes the use of innovative technology and reuse of treated water.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed panel in a recent meeting with officials of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) and the industries department raised concerns over untreated or partially treated effluents being discharged into the drains that ultimately cause pollution in the Yamuna.

“The capacity utilisation of the 13 CETPs is extremely low. While the total capacity is 212 million litres per day (MLD), only 60-65 MLD is being treated. This is mainly because the plants are not getting enough wastewater with the flow being only around 48-50 MLD,” said a member of the committee, who did not wish to be named.

Of the 33 notified industrial clusters in Delhi, which have around 31,000 industrial units within 17 clusters have water polluting units, which are connected to the 13 CETPs. Besides, there is so far no assessment of how many water-polluting industries are there in the unorganised sector such as those running from residential or unplanned industrial areas while most of these have not set up any effluent treatment plants and discharge wastewater directly into the drains.

The DSIIDC has informed the committee that the pollution caused by different sets of industries must be assessed by segregating them by location and the government departments under whose jurisdiction it falls.

As per a report submitted by NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to the NGT-panel, which was roped in for surveying industrial clusters, many areas such as Wazirpur, the amount of industrial effluent found in the drains within a cluster was twice the amount of effluent reaching the CETP. “This clearly points to industries either not conveying all the effluent discharge to the CETPs or water polluting activities being undertaken by unauthorised units within the clusters. This is a matter of concern as effluents were allowed to pollute the water without any oversight,” the report stated.

Based on NEERI findings, the committee in the meeting asked the DPCC and the DSIIDC to jointly prepare a report with suggestive strategies, which can help in the regulation and monitoring of such units. “An exhaustive report of all these challenges and the work done so far for the river’s revival will be submitted in a report to the NGT by next week for further directions,” the committee member said.

The NEERI report also suggests short-term measures such as de-sludging of CETPs to improve their efficiency. “The industries department told us that it has issued notices to industrial associations managing CETPs to get the de-sludging done and in case they fail to do so, the department will undertake the task and recover the cost from industries,” the member said.

Meanwhile, a senior DPCC official, who did not wish to be named said, “A report has been submitted to the committee and we are waiting for further comments.”

The two-member committee comprises former Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra and former NGT expert member BS Sajwan.

Manoj Misra, convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, however, said that fixing of CETPs is no more a solution to the problem. “The only solution to industrial pollution is zero discharge. All water-polluting industries must have a treatment plant at the site itself or in case of smaller industries, there could be a cluster than can set up one common plant where wastewater is discharged and reuse it after treatment. There must be no discharge into the drains at all,” said Misra.

He said during the Covid-19 induced lockdown when all industries were shut, Yamuna was relatively cleaner, proving the impact of the pollution caused by effluents.

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